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INTRODUCTION TO ALCHEMY
What is Alchemy? This is the first and most vital question to be answered before a study of the following pages should be undertaken. This question can be answered to the satisfaction of the inquiring mind, but all careless paging through this book will be to no avail. If the reader has no previous knowledge of Alchemy and, moreover, no knowledge through conscientious study concerning mysticism, occultism, or related subjects, the answer to the above question will have little meaning. What, then, is Alchemy? It is "the raising of vibrations".
For this reason it is wise not to attempt to experiment with the laboratory outlines that follow. These experiments are only for those who have spent considerable time in spagyric research and who have proven to themselves that an honest endeavor has prevailed and that this same endeavor still motivates their true search for the highest Arcana, the lapis philosophorum. As all students of alchemystical literature have come to realize that the exact process for the opus magnum has never been completely revealed in simple language or put into print, they will appreciate the fact that here is given a detailed description of the lesser circulation.
In Alchemy there are the lesser and greater circulations. The former pertains to the herbal kingdom and the latter to the most coveted of them all, the mineral (metallic) realm. A correct understanding, and not just knowledge, of the herbal process will open the gate to the great Arcanum. Months and years of experimentation in your alchemical laboratory will prove the truth of this statement. The fact that Alchemy is a life's work will be accepted by those who have spent months and years behind books and retorts. It is this significant fact which provides our spagyric art with such an armor that no materialist can pierce it. If it were not for the cleansing, purging, and aging of the alchemist-to-be over a great length of time, like the subjectum he is working with, how could it be kept from the profane and the unworthy? Only that which has stood the test of fire has been purified. That there is still a cloak of secrecy covering alchemical processes, and that this must yet remain so will have to be accepted by all aspiring alchemists. For personal greed has no place in Alchemy. The aim of all true Adepts is to help relieve a suffering mankind in its physical and spiritual misery. A nonacceptance of this excludes one automatically from the circle of Adepts.
My friends of the medical profession, as well as the pharmaceutical chemists, will readily disagree with me when reading what follows. This must be taken for granted and, in fact, has been so since what is presented here is so foreign to the standardized teachings in present day medical colleges. Since I agree with them, on their terms, it is only fair to ask that they think of the contents of this book in the terms of an alchemist. If this is impossible, then the book should be laid aside for the time being and forgotten until it can be examined by an open mind free from prejudice.
No attempt is being made here to write on allopathic therapeutics. This shall be left to those versed in this particular branch of healing. I am writing here about Alchemy because of the years of studies and experiments that have preceded this book, and because of the work that shall in all likelihood continue to follow. Since the scope of Alchemy is so immense, one earthly incarnation in many, if not most, cases is an insufficient time for the full completion of the work. In climbing the alchemist's ladder, there are many tribulations to consider involving time, money, heartaches—to mention only a few of the difficult steps. The aspirant then should think long and well before undertaking such an ordeal, for if he is not prepared all will prove unsuccessful.
The process in both the lesser and greater circulation is basically not expensive. In fact, it is relatively insignificant. But before this state can be reached much money, time, and effort can and, most likely, will be spent. It is for these reasons that an urgent appeal is made not to venture rashly into Alchemy, not to see oneself sitting in perfect personal health at the end of a rainbow with the world at one's feet and with full pots of glistening gold. These are only illusions and will prove to be but sensational and glamorous fata morgana; they will not satisfy the soul. There is more to be gained in Alchemy than vainglory. This, in fact, cannot be obtained in Alchemy. Such vainglory is as far from the true goals of Alchemy as night is from day. This brings us back to the simple statement made at the beginning of this chapter: "Alchemy is the raising of the vibrations." He who sees no meaning in this seemingly unimportant sentence has no right to attempt alchemical experimentation. Such a person is like one who claims that since he knows all the letters of the alphabet he can, therefore, read any language as they are all composed of letters from the same alphabet. But does he read with understanding when the letters are interchanged, forming words in different languages? A chemist may know all the formulas and all the abbreviations of chemical terminology, but does he also understand what they really are? Their true origin? Their first state? This we shall leave for those who are concerned to answer. If all the foregoing statements do not discourage the aspirant and make him clap the book shut and put it away with disgust, perhaps then it will help him to find himself in this universe and to give peace and contentment to his soul. Hermetic philosophy, with its practical arcanum, repeats itself over and over again in the ancient axiom: "As above, so below. As below, so above."
It is questionable whether or not historical references to Alchemists of the past have a place in these pages. There have been so many books published already that have made it their business to elaborate on the history and romance of Alchemy. For this reason, no attempt is being made here to add to the wealth of biographical material supplied by such books. Our emphasis falls, rather, on present-day alchemystical experimentation, conducted in accordance with age-old practices. Our aim in these pages is to attempt to demonstrate and to reveal the truth of Alchemy in contemporary language, while still remaining in harmony with ancient rules and rituals, according to the Alchemist's Oath. The practice of Alchemy, not only in earlier times but in our own day as well, should be undertaken only with the greatest solemnity. This can best be illustrated by the following oath from Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum (London, 1652). This oath, in only slightly modified form, is still being used by present day Adepts:
"Will you with me tomorrow be content,
Faithfully to receive the blessed Sacrament,
Upon this Oath that I shall heere you give,
For ne Gold ne Silver as long as you live,
Neither for love you beare towards your Kinne,
Nor yet to no great Man preferment to wynne:
That you disclose the secret that I shall you teach,
Neither by writing nor by no swift speech;
But only to him which you be sure
Hath ever searched after the seacrets of Nature?
To him you may reveale the seacrets of this Art,
Under the Covering of Philosophic before this world yee depart."
Sooner or later, most students experience a desire to find an Adept in order to become his pupil or disciple. But no matter how sincere such a desire is, it is futile for the student to attempt to locate a teacher versed in the Grand Arcanum. "When the pupil is ready, the Master will appear." This ancient precept still holds true. One may search, one may aspire, one may work and study hard until the wee hours of the morning, and yet it will not be evidence that he or she will ever attain that priceless jewel: the Grand Arcanum. For it takes more than mere study. An honest heart, a clean heart, a true heart, a benevolent and contrite heart accomplishes more than all the book learning can ever do. Yet, strangely enough, learning must accompany the virtues just cited. Without a knowledge and an understanding of natural laws and their corresponding spiritual parallels, no one could ever truly be called an Alchemist or a Sage.
I am not attempting to vindicate Alchemy. It needs no vindication. I am advocating the truth in Alchemy, for it is a most wonderful experience to have come to a realization. To experience! To realize! To have found "the light that shined in the darkness."
All the foregoing may seem so discouraging. Perhaps a heavy doubt may weigh upon the heart of the lover of Alchemystical Research. Whatever the cause or whatever its effects may be, a tremendous responsibility is connected with it. He who has read about the lives of the Alchemists has found that most often many years had to elapse before their goal was reached. Not everyone was as fortunate as Eirenaeus Philalethes who writes that in his 23rd year that great blessing in the form of the lapis philosophorum was attained. Many had to await another incarnation before they proved themselves worthy and ready to receive it. But, if all doubts are put aside and if a firm Belief has grown into a strong Faith, then that quickening moment that produces knowledge will eventually help one to come to "Understand," to "Realize" the oneness of the universe, the secret behind Creation and the unfolding of cosmic consciousness.
This brings us to the natural questions: "What is the secret of creation? And what constitutes life force?" These questions must be answered before the would-be Alchemist can accomplish anything in his laboratory.
Since everything that grows comes from a seed, the fruit must be contained in its seed. Mark this well, for here lies the secret of creation. The raising of specimen, as said before, is the raising of vibrations. Herbs, animals, as well as minerals and metals, grow from seed. To understand this secret of nature, which is only partly revealed to mankind generally, constitutes the main theoretical subject in Alchemy. Once this is known, then only the proper understanding is necessary in order to obtain results in the raising or elevating of specimen, which is nothing else but transmutation. If we can help nature in her ultimate goal, that of bringing her products to perfection, then we are in harmony with her laws. Nature does not resent an artificial effort, or a shortcut, to bring about perfection. To illustrate: the seed of a tomato may be put into the ground late in the fall. Snow and ice may cover it during the winter. But no tomato plant will grow during this time, outdoors in freezing temperatures. However, if the same seed is planted inside where sufficient warmth and moisture is provided, and if it is placed in the proper matrix it will grow into a plant and bear fruit. This is not contrary to nature. It is in harmony with the natural laws. For fire (heat), water, air, and earth are all that are necessary to cause a seed to grow and bear its predestined fruit. The life force originates not in fire, earth, air, and water. This life force is a separate essence which fills the universe. This essence, or fifth essence (quintessence), is the truly important object that alchemists seek. It is the fifth of the four: fire, water, air, and earth, and is the most important one for the alchemist to find and then to separate. After such a separation has taken place, the answer to what lies behind the secret of creation will then manifest itself partly in the form of a dense smoke-like vapor that settles, after passing through the condenser tube, into a water-like substance of a yellowish color carrying with itself something oily which gives the tinge to the extracted water. This oily substance, or alchemical Sulphur, is just as essential to alchemical preparations as Salt and Essence. I do not wish to go into this any further at this point, as this will be treated more explicitly later on.
A repetition of certain phrases and sentences may be found throughout this book. This is not arbitrary; they have been purposely inserted in order to emphasize certain important points more strongly. Much that is written here must be reread many a time in order to lift the veil. This only can be accomplished individually by each student. That which follows will be discovered when the practical experimentation takes place in the laboratory.
Now to the alchemist's laboratory. This usually takes on a sinister coloring as one's imagination runs wild. Even today, so-called religious people are inclined to discuss Alchemy in rather subdued whispers because, so they claim, it is the devil's work. Ignorance is bliss to some, and no one has a right to take another out of his or her bliss. We must ignore those that have religious scruples against Alchemy, as we do not intend to convert anybody. The aim laid down here is to help the alchemical aspirant on his laborious road. This road begins in the laboratory. Everything in the laboratory revolves around the fire or its emanation: heat. The rest is composed of a few flasks, a condenser, and some ingenuity. It sounds rather simple and really is so. What about all the other instruments that clutter up an alchemist's laboratory, as pictures would have us believe? Just as an artist needs only canvas, paint, and brushes to paint a picture, but may add an indefinite number of other related objects to his studio, so may an alchemist add other related equipment as he sees fit. No doubt he is going to experiment and probe deeper into the mysteries to unlock one after another. Once the soul hungers and thirsts for truth and the unfoldment of nature's laws, there is no end to its search until the ultimate has been reached.
Where should a laboratory be located? How can one practice Alchemy in a crowded city? Such questions will have to be answered individually by each student. A corner in an attic or a place in the basement is sufficient, as long as there is a continuous source of heat available. He who wishes to practice our spagyric work will have to do all the work himself. How fortunate! How else could it be? How else can one appreciate the experience if he does not arrive at the crucial point of knowledge by his own individual efforts? Enough has been said now concerning the hardships and disappointments that undoubtedly will be encountered. If the student, in spite of these difficulties, still wishes to enter the portals of the spagyrist's holy temple, he will find a welcome guide in the following pages. These unfold, in simple language, the process of the lesser circulation.
Those who wait for a complete description, in similar language, of the Grand Arcanum will wait in vain. It cannot be given. It is not permissible. But—and this is of utmost significance—he who can accomplish in his laboratory what the following pages present by way of instruction, can surely accomplish the Grand Arcanum, if he is ready. The preparation may take years or even tens of years. No time limit can be set. Some have a natural or inherited tendency, or gift, to delve into the mysteries. Some can never even enter. The "why" for this has no place here. But to those who are ready to travel the royal road of Alchemy, I say, "Patience! Patience! Patience! Think and live cleanly and charitably and dwell always in truth—that which you honestly consider and believe to be the truth." Such a neophyte cannot fail then. Remember, "Seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
The wisdom of the Sages represents a culmination of all that is essential for men to have faith in, knowledge of, and understanding about. He who has attained such a state of illumination is indeed in harmony with the universe and at peace with the world. To reach this goal of enlightenment, the struggle in this mundane shell need not be of a violent nature, as some want us to believe; rather it should be a constant alertness to the possibilities that confront us in our daily lives, to raise our thought world above the drudgery of this everyday life, and eventually to find the peace within us. If one has not undergone the Alchemy of the inner self, or transcendental Alchemy, as it has been termed, he will find it extremely difficult to obtain results in his practical laboratory experimentation. He may produce things he knows nothing about, consequently passing them up as worthless. It is not sufficient only to know; it is understanding that crowns our work. It is here the wisdom of the Sages and Adepts helps to bring about an understanding within the individual concerning that which he knows but does not understand.
Excerpted from The Alchemist's Handbook by FRATEER ALBERTUS. Copyright © 1974 The estate of Frater Albertus. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Second Revised Edition
Chapter I Introduction to Alchemy
Chapter II The Lesser Circulation
Chapter III The Herbal Elixir
Chapter IV Medicinal Uses
Chapter V Herbs and Stars
Chapter VI Symbols in Alchemy
Chapter VII Wisdom of the Sages
Posted November 15, 2005
It was a bit hard to read at times,as we all are not rocket scientists and do not know chemistry.In chapter five Herbs and Stars I was very disappointed that there was not a detailed description of each Herb next to the name.Example:angelica:The Habitat,History & description of the root.I found myself having to get online,to define all of the Herbs.I was throughly disappointed and hope that there is a better book out there.If there is can someone please tell me?
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Posted January 19, 2006
I've read parts of it, but not the whole thing. Someone else said that they couldn't find a description of herbs. Then I should reccomend some Wiccan books. It has alot of herbal reference. I've heard that it is also hard to read, but being educated in chemistry, it shouldn't be too hard for anyone.
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